Winter in the Desert - 2013 travel blog

2 instruments in 1

3 necked guitar

where does your head go?

bagpipe collection

extra curves


rattan horn

Taylor Swift's dress

violin with keys

what is it?

Movie Clips - Playback Requirements - Problems?

(MP4 - 1.54 MB)

great musical talent

(MP4 - 549 K)

player piano

The CEO of Target Corp. has a number of homes; one is in Phoenix. A few years ago he decided that Phoenix needed a major museum. He had visited a museum of musical instruments in Brussels. It impressed him, but he felt it was too classical and European in orientation. He decided to build a museum of musical instruments in Phoenix with his own vision and started acquiring a collection from scratch.

The museum opened three years ago and the instruments, videos, and costumes are amazing in depth, breadth and manner of display. We were there for four hours and saw barely half. We wanted to see more, but could feel our attention span wavering. A two day pass would be a good idea.

Since music must be heard to be appreciated, every visitor uses headphones which are triggered once they near an exhibit. As we walked from one exhibit to another, the audio would gradually fade from one to another. This meant that the museum was very quiet since everyone was listening intently. But once in a while someone would talk much too loudly, forgetting that their ears were covered. Woops!

We started in the artist's gallery which had an eclectic display of paraphenalia used by the musicians. Displays ranged from Satchmo to John Lennon to Taylor Swift to Bennie Goodman. Then we went to the experience gallery where we could play various instruments ourselves. The theremin and gamelan were especially fun.

Upstairs the music was organized by continent and country. The collection was so complete even North Korea was represented. Some of the instruments on display were antique, others contemporary. Some were made by talented artisans: others looked like a simple construction made from whatever local stuff was handy. Sometimes appropriate costumes were there as well. While we associate bagpipes with Scotland, it became clear that almost every European country had a version of their own. I was amazed how many of the instruments were totally unfamiliar. We often hear people lament the extinction of various animals. I have heard similar laments about the loss of local languages. It is clear that the homogenization of the world's cultures has had a similar effect on musical instruments. Videos showing people playing these obscure instruments were fascinating. As an aspiring violinist in my youth, I remember years of making horrible noise, struggling to find the prefect spot on the fret to put my fingers. Here I saw violin-ish instruments with keys attached. Problem solved!

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